Craig placed all the presents under the Christmas tree with Santa like care. He drank the milk left out by the kids and took a few bites of the cookies they made with his wife, Mona. He felt a tickle in the back of his throat as he swallowed the last cookie. It was rough and sharp. He tried to clear his throat as quietly as possible but something wouldn’t clear.
He realized his wind pipe was closing and he felt panic start to rise. His heart started beating frantically as his hands grasped at his throat. Nuts. Mona had put nuts in the cookies. She knew he was allergic to nuts. She knew he was going to eat the cookies. He now knew she was trying to kill him.
Things hadn’t been easy this holiday. Mona discovered Craig’s addiction to on-line pornography and that he’d spent over a thousand dollars on images of women in various states of coitus. Craig knew it was stupid but he was frustrated. After their last child Mona just wasn’t interested in sex of any kind. She just wanted to go to bed. So he looked at some porn, and maybe sent a few dirty messages to a woman in Miami. Nothing had come of it.
Craig fell to his knees in the living room as he struggled to inhale. A little air was rattling down his throat with each beleaguered breath and exiting with a wheeze. He tried to calm down and slow his racing heart. He knew that most people died from panic more than being unable to breath. He could hold his breath for a long time and he figured he could make it if he just relaxed.
On the roof there was a clatter, a noise Craig wasn’t familiar with, he’d never actually heard a genuine clatter before. It sounded like livestock on the roof. Craig lay on the living room carpet, feeling the room falling further away from him. He could make out the sounds of footsteps coming from above him but it was getting mixed with the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears. He sucked in another weak breath and exhaled in short shattered bursts.
Suddenly he was on his back and he felt air being forced into his lungs. He felt someone’s mouth over his and he thought Mona had changed her mind and had come to save him. He wished she had shaved her beard though. Craig realized Mona didn’t have a beard and he opened his eyes. Santa Claus was giving him mouth to mouth. Craig felt his heart leap in his chest. He’d never believed in Santa and certainly didn’t believe Santa was CPR certified.
“Calm down Craig. Calm down. Nice easy breaths. It’ll pass soon”, smiled Santa.
Craig did feel the tightness in his throat begin to relax and before long he could take a full deep breath. He sat up on the floor and Santa supported his back.
“Santa”, asked Craig.
“Call me Chris”, said Chris, “all my friends do”.
“Chris. Chris Cringle”, breathed Craig.
“Yes Craig. I do go by the name Santa occassionally, but Chris will do fine. You’re lucky I got here when I did”.
Chris helped Craig up and sat him on the couch. Craig’s mouth was hanging open. Standing before him was the man himself, clad in his red suit, lined with white fur, his white beard was full and his cheeks were rosy, his eyes danced like diamonds and his belly jiggled. It was him. The real guy. The man.
“I don’t understand”, said Craig as he cleared his throat a bit.
“You’ve been a little naughty this year Craig and you were on my list. I was planning on leaving you some coal. But my list was updated in flight, I love this new iPhone by the way, and it turns out your wife is far naughtier. So I’ll be leaving her the coal this year. And you I will give a stern warning”.
Craig swallowed hard. He was being lectured by Chris Cringle, or the real Santa Claus and suddenly felt the need to change his pants.
“Stop screwing around”, said Chris.
Craig waited for more but nothing else came. Smoke rose from Chris’ pipe and formed a small wreath overhead.
He turned to his sack and pulled out some coal. He put it in Mona’s stocking and turned back to Craig.
“Forgive your wife and stop being so selfish. And on second thought, call me Santa”, said Chris as he slung his sack over his shoulder.
Craig nodded and watched as Chris, as Santa, wiggled his nose and shot up the chimney without a sound. He sat for a moment in the silence and then passed out into the thick couch pillows.